tv Meet the Press NBC October 21, 2012 8:00am-9:00am PDT
it is so good. ♪ this morning on "meet the press," roughly two weeks to go, and the final push is for women voters. the president in battleground virginia at week's end, hoping to keep the gender gap in his favor among women by attacking his opponent. >> governor romney wants to take up policies more suited to the 1950s. >> this president has failed america's women. they've suffered in terms of getting jobs. >> looking at the record and looking forward. what will tomorrow's final showdown mean for the final days? we hear from both campaigns this morning. for governor romney, senator marco rubio from the all-important state of florida. for the president, david axelrod. and later, ohio republican senator rob portman. romney's debate sparring partner. joining us live from the debate
site. plus, our roundtable weighs in. from "the new york times," columnist tom friedman. and white house correspondent helean cooper. nd former white house press secretary for president clinton dee dee myers.ne cooper. and former white house press secretary for president clinton dee dee myers. from nbc news in washington, it's "meet the press" with david gregory. the latest nbc news/"wall street journal" poll for where this race stands, chuck todd has the numbers. this is significant. >> this is among likely voters, david. 47%, 47%. not all tied races are equal. the president sitting at 47% if this were the sunday before election day there would be a lot of concerns in chicago. they want to be at 48% or 49%. sitting at 47% is good for a challenger, not a good number for an incumbent. let's go inside the numbers a little bit. the gender gap. you brought it up. among men, romney, a 10-point
lead. let's go to women. this is interesting. president, an eight-point lead here, this is his smallest lead among women that we've had all year long. a few other things inside the numbers here, david. in the midwest, romney a narrow lead, but way inside the margin of error. and among all of the collective battleground states a little bit of a lead for mitt romney. speaking of the battleground, i want to go there a minute. if you look at where both campaigns think each is ahead, the south, you've got to give it to romney here. they think narrowly ahead. for the president, they think nevada looks good for him and new hampshire. so then you look where is this race getting decided? those four states. colorado, david, might be the closest in the country, but it's the midwest. that is the ticket to 270 elect oral votes. we'll be talking about these numbers as we get more.
chuck, thank you for much. joining me now, republican senator of florida marco rubio. senator, welcome back to "meet the press." >> glad to be back. thank you. >> let's talk where chuck left off about florida. looking at the president's schedule, he looks to be focusing a bit more on ohio. in your judgment, you've seen the numbers. is florida romney red at this point? >> we like the way florida is going. we always predicted it would go this way. two things have happened over the last couple of weeks. one, the american people have seen romney up close offering his vision of the future and what he would do as president. but more startling is the president's complete failure to put forth an agenda for the next four years. if you look at his statements over the last 72 hours or last two weeks, he doesn't talk about the future. he doesn't talk about his governing plans. it's all attacks on mitt romney. and i think you saw the numbers a moment ago. i think they'll only get better on the republican side both
locally and nationally as we go forward. >> in "the new york times," exclusive reporting about iran. this is "the new york times" lead this morning. it is u.s. officials say iran has agreed to nuclear talks. the united states and iran have agreed in principle for the first time to one-on-one negotiations over iran's nuclear program, according to obama administration officials, setting the stage for what could be a last-ditch diplomat effort to avoid a military strike on iran. it's been suggested that the talks wait until after the presidential election. but a senior administration official said telling their american counterparts they want to know with whom they would be negotiating. what is your reaction to this? >> well, my reaction is the white house has denied it, so i don't think there's much more to talk about. they denied that. obviously, war is always the last option. no one wants a war. we would hope this could get solved in another way. i think the military option has to be on the table, and both candidates have said that. and i think there is also concern. and i'm not talking about this story but just in general that iran has often used negotiations
in the past to buy themselves time. but the white house is denying that story this morning, and therefore there's not much to talk about. >> what they are denying is that there's a final decision. that doesn't mean it's case closed here. generally speaking, if it's president romney, do you think he has a duty to give diplomacy one-on-one talks if they are open to it a chance? >> well, i think he's talked about that. he has said that war and any kind of armed conflict is the last option. everything else should fail. at the same time, i think he is cognizant of the fact that iran has used negotiations in the past to buy themselves time. i think under a president romney, you would not have to haggle with the white house about sanctions. i think they would lead on sanctions, including continuing to increase sanction from our partners, increase pressure on russia and other countries to participate in those sanctions. at the same time, i think that a president with a clear vision of what it is he wants to ultimately accomplish, and that's preventing a nuclear capacity, a nuclear weapons capacity by iran, may actually help further that process along.
>> governor romney has said that crippling sanctions like those now in place by the administration are things he'd like to see continued. so not a tremendous amount of difference there. >> no. >> let me move on. the president on the campaign trail says there's a new condition out there called romnesia, which is governor romney is walking away from previous positions. the issue of contraception and abortion seems to be one in the fight for women voters. i was in ohio this week, and you can't miss the campaign ads there. and this is a part of one that the romney campaign is running. i want to play a portion of it and then discuss it with you. >> romney doesn't oppose contraception at all. in fact, he thinks abortion should be an option in cases of rape, incest, or to save a mother's life. >> two issues there, contraception, access to contraception, and abortion. let's separate the two for a moment. first of all othe issue of contraception, we know that governor romney supported that measure in congress that would have said to employers, look, you don't have to provide access
to contraception if it violates your own moral code or religious code, to any employer. that was not passed. that was the blunt amendment. but he supported that. and yet listen to what he talked about in the course of the campaign. in this last debate on this very issue. watch. >> i don't believe that bureaucrats in washington should tell someone whether they can use contraceptions or not, and i don't believe employers should tell anyone whether they could have contraceptive care or not. every woman should have access to contraceptives. >> i don't see how both things can be true. if he supports a measure that would say to employers you don't have to provide access, and then he is saying everybody should have access, how do both things become true? >> well, i think that's a general statement about most employers. but there are a handful of employers that have conscientious objections to it, like the catholic church. no one is talking about contraception or preventing people from gaining access to contraception. this happens to conflict with a
constitutional liberty. and the catholic church teaches against contraception. to force the catholic church or its institutions to have to pay for something that is against their religious teachings violates their religious rights. and i think that's the -- >> but the blount amendment said that any employer with a moral objection, religious or otherwise, didn't have to provide access to contrsection. how is that consistent with him saying every woman should have access? >> it has to be a real objection. certainly if they were faking the objection, i think they would be pillaried in public coverage of it. the truth is the catholic church, for example, which is the impetus of this, has a well-founded, longtime and historical opposition to contraception. they teach that in the church. and the obama rule and the obama administration's ruling and mandates on this issue run counter to those religious protections that are constitutional principles. >> true or untrue on abortion.
governor romney has said he would sign a bill that banned abortion, should that come to his desk. >> and i think what he is saying is laying out very clearly what his record is on and the exceptions that he supports. there's diversity on those in the republican party. but he has also clearly said he is pro-life. he has never run away from his record as a pro-life candidate or governor before that. but he is setting clear what he believe the exceptions are that he stands for. >> but he would sign a bill if it came to that to ban abortion. >> he is pro-life. he has talked about that. he also believes in certain exceptions. in that ad you just played, it identifies those exceptions he believes in. >> let me talk more generally about how he relates to women because this has become such an issue on the campaign trail. when you talked about flexibility in schedules, he talked about the binders full of women that he received from some women's groups when he was looking to fill his cabinet with posts when he was governor of
massachusetts, he talked about the importance of flexibility so that, you know, women could get home early to be with their kids and make dinner. and he's gotten some criticism for that because it seems there's a narrow view of what women's roles are both at home and in the workplace. ruth marcus of "the washington post" wrote this on friday, and i'd like your reaction to it. she writes, listen closely to romney not just in the debate but in his comments about women throughout the debate and you hear not only modern manager but '50s dad. he speaks of the dignity of work when talking about welfare moms, but at heart he seems convinced that children are better off when mothers stay at home. senator, you're 42. you're of a different generation. as a father and as a husband. can you understand why some women have that reaction that he seems sort of out of touch with what modern women are going through? >> well, first of all, let me correct you. i'm 41. i only feel 42. >> you and i are the same age. >> just a couple of things i want to say about that. the number one issue in america, especially for women but for all
americans, is an economy that's growing and creating tunes. and that's why you just read a poll that the gender gap is narrowing. the reason is because barack obama is not offering anything. what will he do over the next four years economically so that women that are graduating from the universities can find jobs in the professions they are studying for? that's the number one issue in america, the number two issue in america, the overriding issue in america, and the president is failing to put forward what is his plan for the next four years. what's his plan? >> well, my question has to do with, again, the perception, real or not, about whether mitt romney gets it when it comes to what women are dealing with in the workplace and in their own choices they face today. >> there are columnists and folks on the left that do not like and support mitt romney. they'll come up with all sorts of interesting arguments between now and election day. i think it's absurd. he has a record of placing highly qualified women both in his administration, campaign, and throughout his life. this is silly. it's not even real outrage. he was discussing a process they went through to identify
qualified women for important positions in his administration. i think his record speaks for itself on that in terms of the way he's behaved himself in both private and in his campaign. >> let me ask you about another big issue in your state, and you know it well, and that's the issue of medicare. what do we do about the fact that medicare is going broke and something has to be done with health care costs that affect the medicare program. there's a romney ad that features you, and this is a portion of it. >> my mother's 81, and depends on medicare. we can save medicare without changing hers, but only if younger americans accept that our medicare will be different than our parents when we retire in 30 years. but after all they did for us, isn't that the least we can do? >> so what the romney-ryan ticket wants to do is change medicare by offering premium support or a voucher to seniors to be able to purchase health care in the private market, choices of health care plans under medicare including traditional medicare. but you said, as a 41-year-old,
30 years from now, when we retire. but that's not accurate, senator. their plan would make these changes in 10 years. so if you're a senior, if you're 55 years old, you have to think about the impact of these policies. if they have the right idea, why not do it now? why not put these changes in place and affect your mother's medicare right now? >> well, first of all, because i think it's doable without disrupting my mother's medicare and people of her generation. in the ad, i was describing the impact it would have on people like me, my generation, and the truth is our medicare will look different. we'll have more choices. ours will probably be adjusted for how wealthy we are when we retire. wealthy people will get less of a premium support. it's still going to be the best plan in the world. it will just be different than our parents have. >> if it's such a good idea, why not say to your mom, you have to realize this system is going broke. you have to make the adjustment now, and it's going to be great for you. you're not going to have to pay any more. or is there fear that doing that would actually make your mom pay more? >> two things. if you're 81 years old like my
mom, you can't afford and you can't sustain the disruptiveness of an immediate change to her plan. number one, they paid into that plan all of these years. they retired with that promise. at 81 years of age, you're not in a position to all of a sudden accept wholesale changes to the way health care is delivered to you. that kind of disruptive change is what we're trying to avoid. and the sooner we change, the sooner we go ahead and put some of the measures in place, the less likely it will be that anyone that's a current beneficiary will have to be disrupted. that's why it's so troubling that the president has failed to put forward any agenda for the next four years including saving medicare. where is the president's plan to save medicare? isn't now a good time to offer it? what is he waiting for? >> we'll leave it there. senator rubio, thank you as always. >> thank you. now let's turn to the senior adviser to presidt obama's re-election campaign, david axelrod. welcome back. >> thanks, david. good to be with you. >> a lot of to get to. and i'll allow you to respond to
senator rubio. i want to start with foreign policy. it's the focus of this final big debate. on the question of iran, and "the new york times" story this morning to repeat saying that there is now the prospect of direct talks between the obama administration and the iranian officials over their program, it's not finalized according to the white house is whether it's a final deal. but there is potential there. you hear th you're here to speak for the president. why does he think this would be critical to avoiding a potential military showdown with iran? >> i don't want to go too deeply into what may or may not happen because the white house has said as you say there is no deal, and i don't have any inside details of that nor should i. but here's what i do know. for two years, the president travelled the world putting together a withering international coalition. and now the sanctions that they agreed on are bringing the iranian economy to its knees. and there's a tremendous disquiet in iran. their currency has dropped in value by 50%.
their oil business has dropped by 50%. there's restiveness in their political environment there. and they're feeling the heat. and that's what the sanctions were meant to do. so it's not -- if they're sensible, they are looking at that and saying it's time to set aside our nuclear ambitions and save our economy. and that's what the president's been working on. that's a project he's been working on for all of these years. remember when he came into office, we were isolated in our position on iran. and in the world. and today the world is unified against iran with us. all because of the leadership of this president. >> let me ask you about libya. this certainly will come up again in the response to the killing of our ambassador, chris stephe stephenss. >> the issue has been there's been inconsisty from the administration as to how they described it. the president did call it an act
of terror the day before but also made reference to the potential that this was a response to a video that was getting -- an anti-islam video that was causing disruptions in egypt as well. this is how paul ryan is describing the situation. he did it in a radio interview on friday. >> the problem is their story continues to shift. they fail to answer the basic questions about what happened. so his response has been inconsistent. it's been misleading. and more than a month later, we still have more questions than answers. the benghazi thing would be a tragedy in and of itself if it was an isolated incident. the problem is it's not isolated but a picture of the broader story of the absolute unraveling of the obama administration's foreign policy. >> david, as you know, the argument is that this central claim of the administration to have dealt a withering blow to al qaeda, including killing osama bin laden, is undermined
by an attack like this and further chaos in the middle east. how do you respond? >> i think it's nonsense. obviously, this was a tragic event, and the president did call it an act of terror not just once but several times, and asked for and ordered an investigation to get to the bottom of what happened, why it happened, and to bring those who committed this act of terror to justice. and that's what he's going to do. there's only one candidate here who has tried to exploit it from the beginning, even while the flames were burning in benghazi. mitt romney was sending out political press releases on this. and the whole republican party has followed. and on friday, chairman issa in the house on the republican side released a reef of documents that he asked for that included the names of people on the ground in libya who are cooperating with us and helping us on these security issues, jeopardizing their lives, carelessly, recklessly putting them at risk, all to score
political points in the final weeks before an election. that's disgraceful. the way they have handled this issue is disgraceful. to hear paul ryan make the case, who is budget committee chair, wanting to cut back on our request for security funding for these embassies and consulates, makes it even worse. >> but this wouldn't be an issue, would it, if the administration had a consistent response to what occurred there? >> david, there's investigation ongoing. with the intelligence community. the fbi is on the ground. and we have reported -- the administration has reported everything that we've been told. and we've shared it in real time. the fact is, it's a complicated situation. we're thoroughly looking at what happened there. and reporting to the american people on it. there's been no inconsistency. there's merely been reports on the data and the intelligence that we've been given. and the intelligence community has been clear on this.
that they have been doing the best they can, giving us the intelligence they have. we've been sharing that intelligence. and we'll continue to do so. >> generally, the attack that has come on this president from his opposition, from governor romney and from paul ryan, and you heard it from senator rubio, a lack of a second term agenda. is it fair, that criticism? has the president spent more time trying to disqualify romney as an alternative than affirmatively saying what a second term would look like? >> you know, i heard senator rubio say what the president is saying around the country. i have never seen senator rubio at one of the president's events. but if he did come to one of the president's events, what he'd hear is the president making the case for how we build an education system second to none so we have the best trained workers in the world, how we build -- how we get control of our energy's future. not just by drilling for oil and gas, but by commanding the new sources of energy that china and india and germany and other
countries are working on. how we rebuild manufacturing in this country. not by giving tax breaks to companies that move overseas, but by giving tax breaks to companies that are starting up here. and how we deal with our deficits in a balanced way so that we are cutting back where we have to, asking the wealthy to pay a little bit more, something governor romney refuses to do, and investing in those things we need to grow this economy. we have a very specific agenda moving forward. on the other hand, what you hear from governor romney are a lot of chapter heads with no chapters and a plan to spend $7 trillion more on tax cuts and more money for the pentagon that they're not even asking for with no plan to pay for it. so if there's anyone who's running without a real plan here it's governor romney. >> let me ask you -- >> and to the extent he has one, david, it's going back to the same policies we had under the last administration.
tax cuts for the wealthy, rolling back rules on wall street, and hoping that somehow if the folks at the top do well that the rest of the country will do well. we tried it. it doesn't work. we can't go back to that. >> finally, the state of the race at this point. first, we're beyond the debate expectations nonsense. what are the stakes, though, in this final debate of the serious conversation about differences about foreign policy? preview that for me. >> well, i think it's going to be an important debate. i don't think any one event is decisive. but this is an important issue. even though being strong at home and rebuilding our economy is the number one issue, people want to know they have a strong, steady hand in the oval office, and they don't want someone who's reckless and has been consistently wrong on foreign policy issues as governor romney has. we all remember his dukes of hazard tour of international destinations over the summer where he not only roiled countries that are not friendly
to us but our best ally, britain. he was wrong on libya. he was wrong on iraq. so people are going to have a chance to take a measure of these two guys and say, who do i want as the commander in chief? who do i want leading the war on terror? and i think we're going to -- i think that's a very stark contrast. >> finally, state of the race now as you handicap the final weeks. you heard chuck todd with our new numbers. 47%, 47%. he said 47% for the president is not a good number for an incumbent. it was a sunday before election day, you'd be very worried. how concerned are you about that right now, including the fact that in total romney seems to have an edge in the battleground states? >> well, first of all, david, i would say on the battleground state issue, you guys also issued polls in the last week that showed us with an eight-point lead in iowa. i think we had a lead in ohio. you showed us having a lead in florida. so i don't know how to square all of the polling that nbc is releasing. but i do think that this is going to be a very close race, and we've said that consistenty. i think if you look back at your
tape, every time i visited with you i have predicted this will be a close race. but we feel good about where we are. we feel we're even or ahead in these battleground states. and if you look at the early voting that's going on around the country, it's very robust and it's very favorable to us. and we think that's a better indicator than these public polls which are frankly all over the map. >> all right. we'll leave it there. david axelrod, thank you very much. >> good to be with you. >> thank you. coming up here, our political roundtable weighs in. we'll preview this important debate about foreign policy and issues we've been talking about this morning. also a look at the strategy for both sides in light of that polling and what you heard from david axelrod in the closing weeks of this campaign. democratic strategist dee dee myers. republican strategist mike murphy. "new york times" columnist helene cooper. and we'll hear from rob portman, a top adviser to governor romney and his sparring partner for debate prep. [ male announcer ] wouldn't it be cool
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>> that was an exchange from tuesday's debate. it will get hot and heavy again tomorrow in the final debate. we are back at our roundtable. joining me now, "the new york times'" helene cooper. "new york times" columnist and co-author of that "that used to be us" tom friedman. republican strategist and columnist for "time" magazine mike murphy. and former white house secretary for president clinton dee dee myers. welcome to all of you. let's talk libya, tom friedman. what are we to make of this? could this be politicized any further? >> it's totally politicized at this point. other than a civil war in beirut for 40 years, these are incredibly messy situations. people don't show up in uniforms. you can have a flash mob turned into a plan thing. you can have plan people inside of a flash mob. to me, this is utterly contrived story in the sense that this is
the end of, you know, obama's foreign policy. i think we are missing two things. one is the global picture. what's going on in the arab world since the arab spring? we've seen the breakdown of the intelligence service state. all of these states have collared all of these islamists and jihadists for us, in many cases. those states have broken down, but a new order hasn't arisen. and that's what you saw in benghazi. but here's what's also new, and we have completely missed this story, and it's a great thing for america. let's forget which candidate it might serve. what happened immediately a day and a half after this incident in libya, thousands of libyans, carrying pictures of our ambassador, voluntarily marched on the militia headquarters that did this and took these guys down. that is one of the greatest successes for the united states possible. we didn't have to do it. they did it, on their own. and the fact that we're not
talking about that but talking about how many times you used the word terrorism and did you scratch your ear like this is nonsense. >> but what seems to be an important policy question, dee dee myers, we do know that this administration has asserted it has done grave damage to al qaeda. the ultimate of course is killing osama bin laden. but here you have chaotic situations, including in libya, where there were questions about whether there was adequate security for diplomatic institution outposts like this. also the issue of what's happened since. the fact that the fbi couldn't get in there, even to investigate, because of security. and this from steven hayes of the weekly standard, which i think we should talk about. he writes in the magazine, the man suspected of organizing the attack on the u.s. consulate spent two leisurely hours sipping a strawberry frap on a patio and boasted he wasn't even questioned by the united states. it raises an obvious question.
why is it more than a month after the attack a reporter can spend more than two hours with the alleged mastermind and no u.s. agent has approached him? >> well, by the way, president obama still did take out osama bin laden, and there's no question about that. and the leadership of al qaeda in many ways has been decimated, has been severely beat back. that doesn't mean that al qaeda has disappeared from the world, and the administration has never claimed such a thing. no question process has been made. it's chaos on the ground. for every report about one group participating, there's another report that it wasn't organized, it was a terrorist group but not necessarily linked to al qaeda. there is so much confusing information. and the reason that the administration's story has evolved over time is that intelligence has evolved, and we keep learning that it was the intelligence community that told the administration that they thought that it wasn't al qaeda linked in the beginning, and now we have seen that play out.
>> to that point, peter king has released a letter. chairman king calls on president obama to release intelligence community reporting that led to the administration's changing characterizations of the benghazi attack. so mike murphy, we now have the intelligence community putting out basically everything it knew at the time as well. what did we learn? >> well, one, is the world is very sloppy, as tom said. presidential campaign season is the worst time to get into serious foreign policy because all of the incentives are politics and hot language. and third, i think it was a train wreck on all sides. i'm a romney guy, but they put out a dumb press release too early. that was a bad idea. the administration has been wiggling all over the place with different stories. now the intelligence community has taken their shot. the whole thing has been i'd say kind of a mid level train wreck. and i don't think it's going to really change the outcome of the election but it takes the edge off of all of the president has on foreign policy. >> that's the question i have. helene, if i'm watching all of this, and maybe i'm an undecided
voter, if i'm out there, what is the bigger point about all of this that i should be giving some serious attention to, if at all? >> i think that's a really good question. i wonder whether a lot of these undecided voters are actually -- if they do exist, are actually thinking that. i think as an american, you have to look at this. the question of embassy security is one that is definitely, you know, should be looked at. the administration has to study that. but the larger issue is the issue of the arab spring and what's happening in this key area, key region for american foreign policy. and that's where you're seeing in libya, egypt,g jemaah islamiyahge yemen and all over the place you have all of this democracy and the mess that comes with it. and i think americans need to be -- i think tom's point is excellent about the sponse of the libyan people. in the egypt case, you didn't see quite the same response.
i think that's very worrying for the united states and for the administration. but i think the far larger point is that we're right now in the middle of -- the region is in the middle of such turmoil. and we don't seem to be addressing it in any meaningful way. instead, we're talking about the death of four americans, which is while incredibly tragic is something that i think is peripheral to what's going on right now. >> well, let's go to 30,000 feet for a second, because that should be the context for the presidential debate on foreign policy. we are in the middle of the break-up of two giant state systems. we are seeing the crackup of the eurozone and the failure of the arab nation state in the arab world. and it's all happening at a time when the world has never been more interdependent. so we have all of these states now around the world, in the middle east in particular, that are too dangerous to ignore, but too expensive to fix. and that -- whoever is the next president is going to have to wind their way through that reality. we can't ignore them but we
cannot fix them the way we did the old way. we need to think of a new way. >> what is our role now, mike? >> well, that's the big question and what they have to litigate at the debate. i think the smarter candidate will go bigger. what's the specific strategy? what's the plan to not lose egypt, which is the real headline out of what happened in benghazi. what's the chinese strategy behind economics? there are huge questions here. if they spend the time quibbling over clocks and quibbling over small tactical things, it's a missed opportunity. >> helene, this is critical. do you give diplomacy a chance in iran? your reporting is that the white house is now prepared to meet one-on-one in effect direct talks with the iranians about suspending their program. tell us more about this. and this could both be a huge topic and also really matter if it happens. >> it absolutely matters because if there's one place where you're thinking where is the next place that americans could end up sending troops, where troops could get involved, this is ground zero.
my colleague at the "new york times" have been working on this story for several weeks, and we've been chasing it ever since mahmoud ahmadinejad sort of hinted at this when he was in new york at the end of september and came to the meeting with journalists and talked about how iran is interested in getting into talks with the united states after the election. this is something that the obama administration has been pursuing for several years now. they've been open to it. iran has not been so sure. they have flip flopped. you had a lot of internal political maneuverings going on inside tehran. but the sanctions that have been into effect, particularly the european oil embargo, and that went into effect in june, the iranians really thought they were going to be able to figure out a way to forestall that but they couldn't. so the iranian economy has really been hurt. and so nobody really has rose colored glasses thinking that, you know, americans and iranians will sit down at a table one-on-one and figure this out. but the belief is that you cannot make any sort of case for
going to war if you haven't exhausted all diplomatic options. >> tom? >> foreign policy is about leverage, david. it's about who's got the leverage. and one thing the united states has successfully done with our european allies in recent months with the economic sanctions, when you cut someone's currency in half, that's leverage. >> by the way, that's mitt romney academy there. this thing politically could be interesting. who would the american people like as the toughest guy to put the squeeze on somebody? it might be the guy from bain capital. >> i want to turn to a moment to mitt romney's sparring partner to prepare for the debates, ohio senator rob portman. you're so many things but at the most the prize sparring partner. senator, always good to have you on the program. i'd like to have you comment on what we've been discussing, which is this iran story. this will be a big topic. and my big question is where beyond the rhetoric does president obama -- do president obama and governor romney differ
on the path forward to iran? >> well, first, i don't know if there will be a big story because both the white house and the iranians said it's not true. it sounds like what helene just said it's another example of a national security leak from the white house. they've done a lot of that. but, look, i think what you're going to see is governor romney lay out a clear vision for how to get iran to do the right thing, which is stop this progress toward a nuclear weapon. we are four years closer to it. what the president has tried has not worked. it's true that we started to put sanctions in place, but, david, as you know, that's because congress pressured the president to do it. other countries pressured us to do it. france was ahead of us on this. the other thing that gets interesting about this story is if it's accurate is that it sounds like the u.s. is taking a position that we're likely to jettison our allies. and as you know, there are talks going on right now, the p-5 plus one talks, the last thing we want to do is abandon our allies in this and make it a one-on-one negotiation. in fact, some of the allies as i
said earlier have actually been more forward leaning than we've been to be sure the sanctions were tough and put in place. >> let's talk about ohio, the state you represent. it seems to be kind of a firewall right now for the president. if they can hold ohio, as you well know, it's very difficult for governor romney in the electoral college to get to 270. here are some key stats we've put together. electoral votes are 18. no candidate since jfk has won the white house without ohio. you know that early voting started october 2. the ad spending is staggering. $166 million. i was there this week, and you can't miss the ads, that's for sure. the president has an edge. an uphill climb for governor romney in your state at this juncture? >> well, i like what i see, david, because the trend is in our direction. as you know, i've been all over the state in the last couple of weeks. i have spoken at six rallies, i think, and been to a lot of the victory call centers.
and the enthusiasm and energy is on our side this year. we have made 25 more door knocks than in 2008. something is different on the ground. if you look at the polling, it's trending our way. that's where you want to be at this point in the campaign. >> i want to ask you about the economy. governor romney's tax and spend plan, this is how the president went after it on tuesday. let me play a portion of it. >> now, governor romney was a very successful investor. if somebody came to you, governor, with a plan that said, here, i want to spend $7 or $8 trillion, and then we're going to pay for it, but we can't tell you until maybe after the election how we're going to do it, you wouldn't have taken such a sketchy deal. and neither should you. the american people. because the math doesn't add up. >> now, here's the thing.
i know the romney campaign has six studies that say it does add up, but we don't know exactly how. i've talked to erskine bowles and senator simpson of the simpson-bowles commission, and they say it simply doesn't work. that either the middle class will have to pay more in taxes or you have to blow up the deficit. what can you say, specifically, that has undecided voters out there getting some clarity about why the math works aside from asserting that it does work? >> well, david, two points. one, it does work. you mentioned that half dozen studies. the president is talking about a study that is not the romney plan. that's what's been great about the debatesnd why they have helped mitt romney in ohio and around the country, is mitt romney has been able to tell people who he is and what his policies are, rather than relying on the 30-second attack ads by the democrats that have been running hot and heavy in ohio, mischaracterizing who he is and misrepresenting his policies. the math does work. it does fit together. and it's because it's tax reform, not just tax cuts, and
it does require looking at some of the deductions, credits, kpimp exemptions, and so on. that's what these debates have been fantastic for in terms of governor romney. second, governor romney has a plan. and that's one thing that you've heard from a lot of folks already this morning on the show, is that the president is out there attacking a plan. now he's mischaracterizing it. but at least governor romney has a vision for the future. and he's got the plan to put america back to work. that's not what you hear from president obama. he's talking about four more years of the last four years. if you're an undecided voter in ohio today, that's not what you want to hear. you know things aren't going well. you know you want to change. governor romney laid out a change, and in these debates he's been able to lay out what he's for and how it works. >> thanks. we'll be watching tomorrow night. we're going to take a quick break. we're back with more, including a frompreview of what to expect tomorrow night. we'll talk about foreign policy and some of the other issues that will come up and look at
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we're back with our roundtable. here was a picture on tumblr, actually. what is that, of course? that is binders full of women, referring to mitt romney's reference to that. dee dee myers, the debate after that, about understanding women's choices today, pressures they face, i asked about contraception, abortion, all of this seems to be an intense play right now as the administration, the president, wants to drive up that wedge and get women to vote for him. what did you make of all of that? >> first of all, i think the way that binders of women blew up was indicative that women don't trust something about romney and his position on women. it's first of all it's why does he need binders of women? he's been 25 years in the private sector as a candidate,
before as a businessman, why didn't he have any relationships with women? then it came out that he made up his role in that, which took credit for something that 25 groups of women had done in massachusetts in order to make sure that more women got into government. and then his position is more broadly where he says he's against abortion except in cases of rape, incest, and life of the mother, except he would support supreme court justices that would overturn roe, make abortion illegal underany circumstances and outlaw birth control. he has been all over the map on every issue that's important to women in this election. he doesn't have a plan to help narrow the pay gap, which is really important to women. women care about the economy, but in a receint poll, they sai jobs were important, but also equal pay and access to contraception and abortion. >> we talked to 65 million women
via that poll, and the gender gap is definitely closing. the women of america are coming up with another definition. what's always amazed me about the media since there's no such thing in the world as a pro-life woman. it's the most underrepresented group in the world. and a lot of pro choice women are comfortable with romney because they know his priority is the economy. this is the democrat line. but i worked for romney when he was governor, and i imagined all the women i knew then who ran the place throwing stuff at the tv. i think it's ludicrous romney is vilified for being a leader among all governors. i can't even remember the men who worked there frankly. it's been 10 years. i'm getting old. but i think it's a shiny object attack. that's the problem with the obama campaign. push it into small divisive things to make up for the lack of content. >> one of the things, and i talked about it with my wife and some of my colleagues here at work, when the example he cites about more flexibility for women had to do with so women could get home at 5:00, be with the kids and cook dinner.
look, there's a lot of families who do make that choice, and there's nothing wrong with that. my understanding from my wife about feminism is respecting the choice. and yet he talked about it in such a way that earned him that criticism, well, he is just a little out of touch. he doesn't understand what's happening today. >> he comes across that way, and i bet your wife wishes you cooked dinner sometimes, david. >> maybe not. >> that's a different story. i think he has the tendency when he talks about women to some, maybe he's been watching "mad men" but he does sound very 1950s. the idea of women rushing home to cook dinner is something that just didn't -- i don't think that sounded quite the way he would want to appear because that's a battle that i think women feel they fought years ago. women have gone so far -- we've come so far now that the idea of women, you know, should be able to go into the workplace and should be able to leave at a certain time. for women to be litigating that now just seems like -- makes him seem as if he's out of touch. >> are we focused too narrowly
on some of the wedge issues and not getting the argument that romney makes, which is ultimately women and men are going to be driven by the state of our economy, and what opportunity they have? >> david, i felt from the very beginning the most dangerous thing for barack obama is this attitude. barack obama, nice guy, so glad we elected our first african-american. he really tried hard. but i just want to try something new. i think that's always been the most dangerous thing for him. and what romney has done in the two debates is hit that button directly. i think what obama has to do in the last debate is really come out with some real energy, excitement, and imagination about why he is going to create more jobs in the next four years. and i would just take every issue on foreign policy back to this fact. we can only be strong in the world, we can only have leverage in the world, if we are strong and resilient at home. and if i'm obama, my message would be i have all of these plans, race to the top, innovation, entrepreneurship
will make us strong at home to be strong abroad. >> beyond the women's vote, mike, take a moment and talk about state of the race and strategy on both sides. what does it come down to, and what do you make of 47%, 47%? >> unreal. i think it's moving toward romney right now. the debates are very good. romney will use it as a charm and motive offensive to get people comfortable with him because they are starting to come around to the fact that he might be president and he has to close that final point. it's ohio. ohio is closer. the firewall is on fire. if you look at the demographics of ohio, if romney could perform as well with white voters there as he is in states like virginia and florida, there is room for him to grow. so this firewall stuff is a picket fence. the race is closing fast. >> what's the key? >> i think ohio is the key, although there are paths that don't include ohio. but unemployment went down again in ohio. 7%. lowest in four years. and i think this is the race the obama campaign always expected to run, a razor's edge. that's why they invested so much in the go tv operation around the country. >> get out the vote.
>> yeah. get out the vote. >> in ohio, traditionally they win the early vote. >> yes. but you win it, and by a lot, and that gives you a firewall on election day. but every measurable metric so far so shows that the obama campaign on the ground is as good and strong as they said it was. >> what would your topic area be for a question tomorrow night in the foreign policy debate? >> for mitt romney, i'd ask him about his pledge to declare china a currency manipulator on day one. why does he think this a good idea, given it could lead to a trade war? for president obama, i would ask him -- he criticized mitt romney for saying that the israeli-palestinian peace talks should be kick the can down the road. i would ask president obama whether he has not just done that exactly for the last two years. >> would you support a carbon tax that will help us be less
dependent on foreign oil, strength and innovation at home and climate change and pay down the deficit. >> thank you all for much. earlier this morning, news came that longtime south dakota senator and 1972 democratic presidential nominee george mcgovern died after a long illness. he appeared on "meet the press" nine times over the course of his career, including the day after he announced his candidacy for his first bid for president in 1968. >> my judgment is that the democratic party does not draw its strength now, nor has it ever drawn its strength, from trying to paper over honest differences that exist. now there are differences among democrats. there are differences in the country over how we ought to approach our problems in our own society and over how best to either conduct or end this war. my candidacy doesn't introduce those differences. the differences are there.
and the great strength of the democratic party comes from the fact that we've been willing to face up to those differences, to lay them out on the table, to thrash them out among ourselves. >> according to a statement released this morning, mcgovern passed away peacefully this morning in south dakota surrounded by his family. he was 90 years old. our thoughts and prayers are with his family, of course. thank you all very much for your discussion this morning. before we go, programming note. this week, brian williams joins president obama for a series of interviews over the course of a couple of days on the campaign trail. you can see those interviews on "today," "nightly news," and "rock center." we'll be back next week. if it's sunday, ♪ [ male announcer ] how do you make 70,000 trades a second... ♪ reach one customer at a time? ♪ or help doctors turn billions of bytes of shared information... ♪
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